New music reviews from Owen Maxwell

  • By: Owen Maxwell

Album Reviews: Adrianne Lenker, Julia Holter, Empress Of

Adrianne Lenker – Bright Future

Adrianne Lenker – Bright Future
Indianapolis, IN

Despite her very rustic body of work, it would be criminally reductive to call Adrianne Lenker’s music folk. On her latest solo effort next to Big Thief, Lenker crafts enigmatic and beautiful ballads that morph from simple to forces of nature as each song moves along. Almost like a sunny, warm breeze, “Sadness As a Gift” lets is swath of shimmering instrumentation come in before Lenker’s voice lends the song a devastating weight, keeping you constantly on the edge of tears from Lenker’s tone alone. The lightly warped qualities of “Fool” lend it a romance and wonder, keeping with it a smirking charm that Lenker doesn’t often let bleed into her music. The effortless flow and familiar-yet-alien melodies of “Free Treasure” keep the song humming with the air of an old classic and a folk traditional all at once, getting you caught up in its harmonies and hooks like it’s practically in your DNA. “Vampire Empire” has a lo-fi luster that keeps it kicking and chugging along with a weird attack to it, constantly bringing out a percussive quality as often as it seems to actually breathe.

3Hands4Milo & Mindy Amelotte – White Noise

3Hands4Milo & Mindy Amelotte White Noise

Combining their talents to great effect, Mindy Amelotte and 3Hands4Milo have dropped an electronic dream of an EP. “White Noise” is brimming with a futuristic awe, while the lyrics seem to evoke nature’s harsh dangers as much as desolate urban sprawl, leaving the track as a mix of fear and fascination. Getting lost in an intoxicating rush of emotion, “Weightless” provides a tangible set of textures to match the high that its story lays out, tearing you through that unmistakable high from the right partner. There’s touches of Kate Bush and more ambient synth pop on “Good Week,” where the pair mesmerize you in their electronic mesh, and let the beats slowly overtake the mix for a sonic collage of heavenly delights. The suave and deeper vocals of “Orizuru” let the track fall with more R&B influence than the rest of the record, like a sublime remix of a track that never actually was.

Julia Holter – Something in the Room She Moves

Julia Holter – Something in the Room She Moves
Milwaukee, WI

Listening to Julia Holter can often feel more like sonic painting than your typical musical experience. As such, her latest album is a rich tapestry of complex arrangements and dazzling sounds, but one that will definitely be an acquired taste from the sheer intensity of what she brings the writing, instrumentals and overall choices on this record. In the loose and ethereal chug of “Sun Girl,” you can feel your mind starting to slip by the sheer chaos of everything, but there’s a bliss in the mix and overall push of the greater whole that will elevate your soul as you listen to it. There’s a serene cool between Holter and the flute on “Something in the Room She Moves,” and the track can at times feel like you’re hearing the spirit of the wind call out to you and sing. The demented crawl of “Spinning” blends jazzy riffing with chilling wave of synths and string-like sounds, showing Holter as a true master of her soundscapes as the swirling voices never get lost and in fact gain heavier power in the mix as she drives the song forward. Rounding things out in a more singular direction, “Who Brings Me” strips things down for a more quiet emotional heft, letting the full weight of each instrument really play out before dragging every string to its lowest bottom.

The Anti-Queens – Doomed Again

The Anti-Queens – Doomed Again (Single)

Ripping out with a tenacious punk fire, The Anti-Queens blend the best of 90s rock with modern sound on “Doomed Again.” Underneath its thrashing and raging performances, the pop core of this song is too infectious to shake, as every single section seems to worm into your ears, and each little drum hit becomes a part of your muscle memory. Frankly, given all the great hooks the pair fit into this track, it’s wild how much the tempo and even the groove can shift in its rather short runtime and never really seem to lose you. The vocal production keeps both singers distinct, and varies up the verses in a way that keeps the track on its breakneck pace. All in all, the pair knock out a great single with such a memorable run of moments, that it is constantly shocking it clocks in under three minutes.

Empress Of – For Your Consideration

Empress Of For Your Consideration
Los Angeles, CA

In some earlier work Empress Of (Lorely Rodriguez) could have given the impression she would be a quiet and slow ballad queen, but over the years, the exploration and pop movement has taken over the mix. As Rodriguez pushes the density of each song and each musical wave within her songs, her dance tracks have gained that same depth her earlier work brought in much lighter production. The immediate driving production of “Lorelei” makes for a vicious and invigorating tale of love and strife that will get your whole body swaying to its lush beats. With Rina Sawayama on board for “Kiss Me,” the track takes a typical melodramatic ballad and layers so many painful and inspiring melodies that it becomes a duet for the ages. A darker club rush takes over “Femenine” with every single syllable in its chorus enunciated to a sharp point, letting the Spanish lyrics flow like fine silk in its endless dance delivery. The punchy rhymes on “Cura” make the whole pre- and actual chorus have this desperate and dire feel in the moment, with the drop itself coming as more of a relief than a driving moment when it finally lands.